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Student debt requires legislative aid, says Sen. Gillibrand

One proposed bill would allow students to refinance debt at going rates; another would enroll some borrowers in affordable-income-driven repayment plans.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, center, said that two Senate

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, center, said that two Senate bills aimed at helping reduce student debt could easily gain bipartisan support. Photo Credit: AMNY / Alison Fox

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Sunday pushed a pair of bills that would help students with their debt, hoping to schedule a vote on the proposed legislation by the end of the year.

The push came as Gillibrand accused the Trump administration of supporting “the lenders over the students.” Gillibrand said it’s important to continue to drum up more support for the issues of student debt, calling them “common sense.”

“It’s about elevating our voices, making sure people understand what’s actually happening in these communities — how the student debt crisis in America is harming the economy and really harming the ability of students and adult Americans to really moving on to invest in small businesses, having families, starting a new life,” Gillibrand said, speaking at a news conference at her Manhattan office. “I think if we get a vote on it, it would be overwhelmingly bipartisan and I think we would succeed. We just haven’t been given that opportunity.”

The two bills, introduced earlier, would allow eligible students to refinance debt at the going rate, and would apply to both private and federal loans. The second bill would allow certain borrowers to automatically enroll in affordable income-driven loan repayment plans and automate the annual process of updating income information.

James Rice, 47, a teacher who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, said he took out about $60,000 in student loans, which have ballooned to about $70,000 as he makes his monthly payments.

“As of today, I have 13 more years until my loans are due to be paid off but I’m due to retire in seven years,” he said. “I have always honored my debts, just like so many thousands of other public servants in this country ... So my hopes are to be able to move on with my life and be free of student debt finally.”

Bronx native Keenan Coppin-Thom, 23, went to college at Arizona State University, lived with family there and worked through school, but still ended up in debt, currently looking at having to pay back $27,000.

“I did everything in my power to keep costs and expenses low, but I still ended up with a strong IOU,” he said.

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